Now that we’ve hit mid-summer and have a few outdoor parties under our belts, we decided it was time to revamp the traditional barbecue menu and try something new. And who better to help us than restaurateur Donatella Arpaia? The culinary wizard and television personality has masterminded numerous restaurant menus and authored a cookbook, so she knows her way around the kitchen — and grill. “I like to incorporate things you wouldn’t think of when barbecuing, but still keep it simple and rustic,” she says. Her menu is focused on lighter and healthier options (and is a far cry from the typical hot dog and hamburger routine).

“For the tabletop decor, I choose a seasonal color – turquoise in this case – and supplement it with a pop color like orchid, and rustic elements,” she says. The mix builds on the casual vibes she tries to impart at her gatherings. “I want everybody to feel at home and relaxed, and being outdoors naturally helps with that.”

For the main dish, Donatella serves clams, chopped parsley and white wine sauce in the grill-friendly Donatella cookware to serve alongside grilled sausage and bread.

“I like to incorporate things you wouldn’t think of when barbecuing, but still keep it simple and rustic.”

Before she heads outdoors to prepare the grill, she throws together an artisanal cavatelli pasta with zucchini, ricotta and basil. “I love to balance grilled foods with pasta dishes that can be served at room temperature,” Donatella says, also noting that they require little more cooking than boiling water – a bonus in peak-summer.

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She rounds out her barbecue menu with grilled scallops and grilled cherries served over a bed of arugula with herbed goat cheese.

A traditional antipasti platter of spicy olives, crostini with grilled tomatoes (that have cooled) and baked ricotta with truffle oil allows guests to snack while Donatella prepares the main courses.

Chef, restauranteur and Iron Chef Judge, Donatella Arpaia.

“I love cooking at the grill in the summer … it becomes part of the entertaining.”